Dale Earnhardt, Jr., has one of the most recognizable names in America. He is beloved across the country by NASCAR fans for his own talent and his impressive racing pedigree. Something he was not as well known for until recently, though, was head injuries.
Earlier this year, Earnhardt was involved in two major accidents within a five-week time span. The first crash involved him hitting the wall at Kansas Speedway after a tire blowout. He struck the wall with an estimated 40Gs of force, and even though he was checked out by NASCAR physicians after the accident and continued to race for several weeks, he received a concussion. He chose not to report his symptoms to his pit crew or racing team, though.
A second wreck on October 7 gave him another concussion, after which he finally admitted there was something wrong. Earnhardt reported classic concussion symptoms like headaches, brain “fogginess,” fatigue and trouble completing tasks. NASCAR made him sit out for a few weeks to be treated by a renowned neurologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Concussion program.
One of the main reasons that Earnhardt failed to tell other people about his suspected concussion in the August wreck in Kansas is that he felt relatively healthy afterward. He noticed some confusion and a bit of the “fogginess” typically associated with concussions, but he felt he could still go about his day-to-day life. It took another accident for him to finally admit to feeling “off” enough to seek treatment.
Car accident injuries
Though Earnhardt’s profession leaves him more prone to car accident injuries than most of the general population, millions of accidents happen on America’s roadways every year, and millions of people are injured in those accidents. Visible injuries like broken bones and bleeding wounds are readily treated afterward, but more subtle soft tissue, muscle or organ damage might not be apparent. Some of those, like pulled muscles and contusions, will likely heal on their own with time. Others, however, like brain injuries, could have lifelong effects.
You might walk away from an accident with a bad headache and chalk it up to the stress and adrenaline of the collision, choosing not to seek treatment because you feel okay, just like Earnhardt did after his first crash earlier this year. That decision can be a very costly one.
More about concussions
What Earnhardt may not have realized, though – and most people might not think about – is that a concussion is a form of traumatic brain injury caused when your brain is jarred inside your skull. A severe concussion may be invisible from the outside, without even a bruise to indicate an injury, but it can have lifelong affects on the way your brain transmits and processes information, and some people don’t display all (or any) of the classic symptoms.
Concussion symptoms vary according to the health of the person, the type of trauma, the location of the trauma, and the care administered after the incident. Some people lose consciousness, some don’t; some people get nauseous, some don’t; some people have severe headaches unlike anything they have ever experienced before, but some people have a minor headache akin to that caused by a stressful day or a mild hangover.
Even low-impact crashes can cause traumatic brain injuries that could change your life forever; that is why you should always be seen by a medical professional following an accident, even if you don’t think you have been hurt. Your body’s stress responses could easily mask feelings of pain, and you could be doing your body irreparable harm without even realizing it.
Once you have gotten medical attention and can focus on your recovery, consider speaking with an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney who can give you more information about your legal rights and options you may have about holding the at-fault driver responsible for your injuries.